The Perils of the Personal Essay and My Podcast

Mensah Demary, writing for Human Parts on Medium:

Writers are, by our very nature, unsociable creatures. We hide ourselves in our rooms, or in our home offices, or in the corner of some crowded coffee shop, in order to do the work, conducted only in isolation and in solitude. Humans are, by our very nature, sociable creatures in that loneliness and isolation in large doses can cripple us, render us into hollow husks, and it might even kill us if the lack of communion drags on for far too long. Writing, then, is a balancing act: to isolate, but to connect as a matter of survival, hoping that the work we create matters to someone, anyone, even ourselves.

I’ve been thinking on this piece for a few days now. As I dig further into this storytelling podcast experiment, I keep asking myself something that Demary states perfectly:

The personal essay is, I suppose, the transmutation of a ho-hum life into meaningful art; it is navel-gazing solipsism at its finest.

I’ve been reading/listening-to far more nonfiction writing in the past few years than I have fiction. My response to writers like David Foster Wallace, Scott Carrier, and Charles D’Ambrosio is what finally compelled me to begin my podcast. I felt, and feel, strongly that by presenting a story that is uniquely my own in as honest a way as possible (along with some decent writing, of course), that I can allow others to a. empathize and b. have some emotion stirred-up within them.

I still feel like both of these outcomes are possible in fiction. I’m just concerned that the amount of artifice that needs to be built beforehand is untenable in our current culture. If people just don’t have the time to spend, at what point are fiction writers just wasting their time?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking it. But read Demary’s essay, for sure. And after, listen to the most recent episode of I Better Start Writing This Down. And let my own hype machine begin: Episode 4 comes out on 3/16 and a little birdie tells me that it’s my best one yet.